Does Rudy Gay Have a Future with DeMarcus Cousins and Sacramento Kings?

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Does Rudy Gay Have a Future with DeMarcus Cousins and Sacramento Kings?
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Searching for clarity brought the Sacramento Kings to Rudy Gay, a makeshift solution for an organization that has bigger plans.

Sactown acquired Gay, along with Quincy Acy and Aaron Gray from the Toronto Raptors, for Greivis Vasquez, John Salmons, Patrick Patterson and Chuck Hayes, according to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski and Marc J. Spears. In Gay, the Kings have upgraded their athleticism and added a potent, albeit inefficient, scorer whose 19.4 points per game immediately ranks second on the team.

Kings general manager Pete D’Alessandro said he owed a more aggressive approach to the fans, according to The Sacramento Bee's Jason Jones, and this is certainly an assertive transaction. Hayes was the only player who D'Alessandro sent away that was guaranteed a contract beyond this season. If Gay elects to pick up his $19.3 million player option for 2014-15, this becomes a bold and expensive move.

But is that all this was? Or was this even that at all?

Gay's arrival means many things for the Kings. He gives them another proven scorer and a household name to place alongside franchise pillar DeMarcus Cousins. But that doesn't mean he has a future of any kind in Sacramento because he doesn't. Or rather, he shouldn't.

This trade was a gamble—a part of something bigger and better.

 

Friends First, Trade Partners Later

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Masai Ujiri

Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri is a front-office sage, brightening the outlook of Toronto's future with his strategy of making one cost-cutting move at a time.

First, he sent Andrea Bargnani to the New York Knicks, succeeding in not only dumping the remaining $23-plus million on the Italian's contract, but procuring a first-round selection as well.

Fleecing the Knicks of first-round draft picks is nothing new for Ujiri, of course. He helped orchestrate Carmelo Anthony's departure for the Denver Nuggets in 2011. Look how that's panning out.

Now, he is undoing what Bryan Colangelo never should've done.

For the Raptors, who are seeking financial flexibility and the means to chase Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker or someone else in this summer's draft, Gay's contract was a burden—one that Ujiri unloaded on a former colleague.

D'Alessandro served as Ujiri's assistant in Denver last season, according to Jones. That doesn't mean this deal was the result of one calling in a favor to the other, but it is important. These two worked together, so they know how the other thinks. There has to be an underlying meaning to this trade, especially for Sacramento.

The Kings rank in the bottom half of offensive efficiency, so while they were in need of a scoring punch, Gay's 38.8 percent field-goal clip and penchant for ball-stopping (2.2 assists) wasn't a "must-get."

That is, unless the Kings are playing a grander angle here.

 

Freeing Jimmer...And So Many Others

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Positional logjams had come to define Sacramento's roster. 

Three of the four players D'Alessandro sent packing were forwards. Two were specifically power forwards, but the Kings still have plenty of forwards to play with. Marc Stein of ESPN.com even reports that they're trying to next deal Jason Thompson.

Flexibility still needs to be created within the rotation, but this trade marks the arrival of options. Sacramento sent out players it was using almost consistently for one everyday guy, as Acy and Gray don't project to play much.

The number of forwards in Sacramento is no longer as superfluous and, per Wojnarowski and Spears, the Kings plan to use Gay as a stretch 4, which should open up even more minutes among perimeter talents. 

Trading Vasquez, Sacramento's starting point guard who will hit restricted free agency this summer, also frees up minutes in the backcourt. Isaiah Thomas—Mr. Irrelevant, who has now become extremely relevant—figures to slide into that starting point guard slot.

Empty of any other backup options, Jimmer Fredette, who has been shackled by limited playing time since the Kings drafted him in 2011, stands to become a part of the rotation too. This likely means more burn for rookie point man Ray McCallum as well.

Options are imperative for rebuilding teams, but so is stability.

Odds and ends previously littered Sacramento's docket. Ridding itself of Vasquez, Salmons, Hayes and Patterson puts an end to a basic free-for-all, allowing head coach Mike Malone to create slimmer, and therefore more agreeable, rotations.

 

Potential Financial Gain

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One look at Gay's contract—he's owed over $37 million through next season—and you're liable to puke.

Before the rise of advanced analytics, Gay's raw scoring numbers would seem worth every penny. Nowadays, his deal is an albatross defiling the good name of efficiency. Spending $52 million on Andrea Iguodala, a former All-Star, over the next four years would have made more sense than investing $37-plus million in Gay for two years.

Right?

Depends on how you look at it. When building a team, a two-way player like Iggy is far more valuable when he's healthy, but Gay has the potential to provide some relief of his own.

Forget his scoring totals. He'll get his points at the expense of Sacramento's already questionable shooting percentages (47.3 effective field-goal percentage). That's not what's important. He actually has the ability to open up serious cap space for the Kings this summer. Now we're talking.

Through some lenses, Gay is sure to exercise his player option. No team in its right mind will match or exceed the $19.3 million that he is slated to earn. But that doesn't mean he won't hit the open market.

Gay's stock is rapidly declining. He went from the featured option with the Memphis Grizzlies to contractual fodder in Toronto. Now, he's—well, we don't really know. What we do know is that he'll want to cash in on some guaranteed coin if his value continues to plummet. 

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D'Alessandro may have just opened up some serious cap room for Sactown.

Is it completely unrealistic to believe that Gay, hoping to land himself a three- or four-year deal worth more than $20 million elsewhere, would thrust himself into unrestricted free agency? And is it unreasonable to think that move would pay off?

Some team, perhaps an unwitting one that wants all the shooters and is managed by John Hammond, could offer Gay a salary in the area of $10-12 million annually. It could happen. Raking in $32 million over four years could even interest Gay enough to opt out. Monta Ellis did something similar, and as it turns out, it was worth it.

If that happens, the Kings suddenly find themselves more than $19.3 million richer, putting them well under the salary cap and giving them an opportunity to make the free-agent splash they couldn't this past offseason.

Scoring, however inefficient, still sells. Volume-chuckers wouldn't continue haunting the NBA if it didn't. Recognizing that his stock has dipped more than a tortilla chip-sporting salsa enthusiast at a snack table, Gay could favor a longer deal over a one-time payout.

It could happen. However, bet you Sacramento won't shed a tear if it does.

 

Renting a Different Dynamic

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Cousins is the future of the Kings.

You don't have to like it, or even embrace it. Shouting expletives at your television as you wonder why the Kings are building around him is allowed. Just understand that Cousins is the Kings for better or worse.

Gay's acquisition doesn't change that, not even if he plays out the life of his current deal.

Should he opt to remain in Sactown next season, the marriage ends there. The Kings won't re-sign him unless it comes at a steep discount (we hope). Either Gay gives them additional cap to play around with this summer or next. That's it. That's the extent of this trade—two years, at most.

In the meantime, the Kings have a nifty experiment to fiddle with on the court. Using Gay as a stretch 4 spreads the floor—if Derrick Williams and himself can hit threes—and gives Boogie an interesting supporting cast.

Try telling me this roster has ever been more intriguing since Cousins arrived. I dare you, but before you accept the challenge, know that you'll be wrong. 

How long with Rudy Gay remain with the Kings?

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Best-case scenario, the Kings landed themselves an expensive rental who pans out as a floor-spacing forward, making for some entertaining contests through this season and maybe next. Worst-case scenario, they're stuck with Gay through 2014-15 as they prepare for a spending binge the following summer.

That's it. There is no conceivable scenario in which the Kings build around Gay beyond next season.

Not one. 

This was an aggressive move by the Kings that will drive engagement, open up minutes across the board and, in the interim, create a product worth watching.

It is not the start of a capacious, Gay-centric movement, or anything even close.

 

*All stats in this article were compiled from Basketball-Reference unless otherwise noted and are accurate as of Dec. 9, 2013 unless otherwise noted.

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